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Odetta joins the ancestors

December 3, 2008


Odetta, Voice of Civil Rights Movement, Dies at 77” headlines the New York Times story that describes Odetta as “the singer whose deep voice wove together the strongest songs of American folk music and the civil rights movement.” Also enjoy the 20-minute NYT retrospective. When asked once what songs meant the most to her, Rosa Parks replied, “All of the songs Odetta sings.” Revolutionary journalist Kiilu Nyasha writes: “I first saw Odetta at the Village Gate in Greenwich Village, NYC, in the early 1960s. A small nightclub, my date and I had great seats and I fell in love with her then and there. Her voice was soooo powerful, her music so moving and relevant, her warmth and love so apparent. I used to play her on my radio program, Freedom Is a Constant Struggle, and special broadcasts because she had an exhaustive repertoire of freedom songs. We have lost two of our greatest cultural icons within such a short span of time. Miriam Makeba and Odetta have left us an incredible legacy of song; they will both be greatly missed.” A key influence on Harry Belafonte, Odetta inspired Bob Dylan to trade “my electric guitar and amplifier for an acoustical guitar.” From her wheelchair, she performed 60 90-minute concerts in the past two years, the last big one Oct. 4 in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, and had hoped to hang on long enough to sing for President Obama’s inauguration.

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